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  Political representation and voting behavior of national minorities

This research cluster covers two main topics, namely:

1. The analysis of the representation of national minorities
2. The analysis of the voting behavior of national minorities


The first component has been on the RIRNM research agenda since the institution was founded, whereas the second was launched in 2011.

Within the first component, that is, the representation of national minorities, the prime objectives are to analyze the election-related legislation in force after 1989 in Romania, its impact on the electoral success of the organizations representing minorities (both at the level of the Parliament and of the local councils), as well as to compare the Romanian situation with practices from other states. This component involves primarily qualitative research methods (legal-institutional analysis), but also quantitative analysis (with regard to the analysis of election results). 

This research cluster completes one of the objectives set out in the statute of the RIRNM, which involves the presentation for the Romanian public of policy models concerning minorities from other states. For this, a comparative analysis of the electoral laws of different states was performed, and field-work was conducted on the national councils of the minorities in Serbia, which can be regarded as a different type of political representation, namely, representation through the minorities' own autonomous political institutions.

The second component of this research cluster deals with the voting behavior of minorities, and aims to create the resources for a systematic analysis of the election results obtained by the minority political organizations, as well as of the public opinion surveys conducted in the last decade on representative samples for minorities (in this latter case, we focus on the Hungarian minority).

Contrarily to the topic of representation, which is well documented and has large literature, there is a paucity of research in the mainstream political science concerning the voting behavior of minorities. This is partly due to the relatively high stability of the electoral performances of ethnic parties (compared to the much more volatile support of political parties that are not organized along ethnic lines), but also to the challenges of doing surveys on representative samples of respondents belonging to national minority groups. One of the problems is represented by the fact that public opinion surveys conducted on national level do not contain sub-samples that would be large enough to be considered representative for minorities.

Before the launching of this RIRNM project, only a few analyses focusing on the voting behavior of minorities had been published in Romania, some of them authored by researchers currently employed at RIRNM. However, most of these articles dealt only with the electoral success of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania at particular elections. Consequently, these RIRNM projects also aim to fill the gaps concerning these phenomena, through a more complex approach and a more systematic analysis. Fortunately, most of the election results after 1989 are available broken down to the level of communes (the lowest level of administrative organization in Romania), whereas for the Hungarian community a series of representative surveys have been conducted starting from the end of 1990s, some of them being coordinated by specialists working currently for RIRNM.

These projects will result two databases: one consisting of the surveys and the other of the election results from Romania between 1990-2009, on the level of the communes and containing context variables too (for instance, ethnic composition and other socio-economic variables). These databases will constitute valuable primary data for analyses that will also stimulate cooperation with external researchers and encourage collaboration across institutions. The results of RIRNM analyses will be published in the form of research reports, working papers and electoral maps. Analyzing these data requires preponderantly quantitative (statistical) methods, but also qualitative methods (for analyzing the context of the elections).

RIRNM researchers working in the team: István-Gergő Székely, Tamás Kiss, Gergő Barna, István Horváth